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17th Oct 2023

“They weren’t good enough” – New Zealand media react to Ireland’s quarter-final loss

Niall McIntyre

The New Zealand media don’t believe the Irish team choked in Saturday night’s Rugby World Cup quarter final.

Ireland failed once again to break through the glass ceiling of a Rugby World Cup quarter final with their 28-24 loss to New Zealand in Paris.

It means that, going back to their quarter final exit in the very first Rugby World Cup in 1987, Ireland have gone onto lose seven more last eight clashes in the tournament’s history.

This one was arguably the most painful. Having come into this game as the World number one ranked team, boasting a 17 test winning streak, hopes were higher than ever. But Ireland were bested by Ian Foster’s New Zealand as the last eight hoodoo continued.

That being said, there is still plenty of respect for this Irish team. New Zealand based podcast Rugby Direct refused to label this loss as a ‘choke,’ as some of the team’s detractors have suggested.

Instead, Liam Napier, the New Zealand Herald’s chief rugby writer feels this team deserve a semi-final at least.

“I guess there are frustrations around the draw,” said Napier.

“If you look at it objectively, Ireland are a team that deserve to be at least World Cup semi-finalists.

“And it’s astonishing to sit here and say that team is not in a semi-final. They’ve now had eight failed quarter finals, which is extraordinary, and a massive burden to bear.”

“That wasn’t a choke from Ireland. They played superbly but they just weren’t quite as good as the All Blacks and couldn’t get there. But it wasn’t a choke.”

That being said, Napier feels that the loss of a key players like Johnny Sexton, in particular, will set Ireland back some distance.

“Particularly when you lose such a pivotal figure like Johnny Sexton. So much of their game and mentality is built around him.

“If he wasn’t at this tournament, I feel like there would have been a lot more jitters, and a lot more nerves.

“He’s 38, been there with the Lions and Leinster, he has that big match temperament. He’s a massive loss. Peter O’Mahony won’t see another World Cup.”

“It probably depends on how quickly you’re looking to re-generate that team. Are you looking to do it next year?”

“These sort of questions loom over that team. And I guess there will be a level of doubt now, because for all their historic achievements, Ireland have again not got past a quarter final. And when you drill down a little deeper, Leinster have also lost the past two Champions Cup finals, and a lot of those players make up the Irish team.”

“To not get over those hurdles will sow seeds of doubt. But there are still a number of world class players in that team. Some of them are on the older side so it is going to be interesting how long they stick with them.”

On that same theme, the stark reality remains the same. And former New Zealand rugby union player and cricketer Jeff Wilson was less sympathetic towards the Ireland team.

“The All Blacks were never behind on the scoreboard. The best team on the night won,” he said.

“They weren’t allowed to do what they have done, on the effort and work of the All Blacks. What they did wasn’t good enough on that given night,” he said.

“They knew what was coming. They should have understood this wasn’t the same All Black team they beat in New Zealand. In the end, they weren’t good enough. I believe New Zealand wanted it, that little bit more.”

Bundee Aki

In other words, the re-build starts now.

“But I do think Irish rugby is set up very well, from a centralised model to the strength of the clubs. It’s well financially resourced, so they’re not going to fall off a cliff so there is going to need to be a re-build, but they’re still going to be one of the leading teams in Europe.

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